The Newsletter of VanderWyden Consultants, Inc.
Providing Professional Counsel
INSIDE THIS ISSUE. . .
1. See You at General Synod! Click
In this edition of Wyden Your Horizons, we confront the role of money in our lives, highlight some giving and tax savings opportunities, and provide some insightful quotes about faith.
Wyden Your Horizons is provided as a free resource for churches, non-profit
organizations, and individuals who are raising funds for good causes. Our
mission is to enable churches and non-profit
organizations to implement faith-raising programs that inspire their members to find the
"Joy of Generosity." When individuals adopt this lifestyle,
they experience giving as a privilege and eagerly contribute their
resources for the ministries and programs of their churches and non-profit
June 22-26 we will be participating in the 50th Anniversary Celebration
of the United Church of Christ as part of the 26th General Synod
gathering in Hartford, Connecticut. We will have a booth in the
Exhibition Hall of the Synod and will be available to discuss our
services and how we can help your church meet its fund-raising needs.
Our booth will feature insightful quotes about giving that you can
use for your church's publications or for your preaching, and, of
course, we'll also have some tasty snacks to share. In addition, we
will have a drawing that will entitle the winners to special prizes. I look
forward to seeing many old friends from my time on the Denominational Staff and from
churches I have worked with in capital fund campaigns over the past
twenty years. I know it's going to be a great golden anniversary
celebration! See you there! Top
Don't worry this is not about some "get-rich-quick" scheme, or "franchise investment opportunity." Rather we're going to talk honestly about the role of money in our lives. Many Pastors avoid talking about money from the pulpit because they are afraid of upsetting people. This would be fine if they weren't pastors of Christian churches. But in Christian churches we are called to talk about money because Jesus put money on the agenda. Half of Jesus' parables are about money and the role of our material possessions in our lives. It's amazing to me that some churches avoid this very prevalent topic in the Gospels. Our society is plagued because we don't talk about money often enough in church. We live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, and we also have the highest rates of depression, suicide, high blood pressure, divorce, etc. We consume billions of antidepressant pills because for many people money is more of a burden than a blessing. And this affliction is not confined to people who don't have much money, but it also affects many in the middle and upper financial tiers. In fact many of those who are very financially blessed are also very unhappy, because they have not developed healthy attitudes about money.
Jesus talked so much about money because he knew money is the major barricade between out trust and faith in God. We misplace our trust and faith in money. Some people are seduced by money. They have a little extra money at the end of the year, and they say to themselves, "I'd better save something for a rainy day," and they save that money. The next year comes along and they have more extra money and they say, "I'll feel even more secure if I put some more money aside for a rainy day." They continue to practice this habit regularly, year after year, because they haven't figured out what "enough" is. Sometimes they have enough "rainy day money" for Noah's times and they still don't feel like they have enough. They become very unhappy people because they have misplaced their priorities. I am not suggesting that we shouldn't save, I'm just suggesting that there can be too much of a good thing, especially if it causes us to misplace our priorities. We can also misplace our priorities by not saving, and going into debt and spending too much on things we don't need..
Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and life in abundance," and, "If you seek first God's realm, everything else will be yours as well." In our sophisticated, cynical society we have gotten out of touch with what is abundance; it's no wonder we don't know what enough is. We are taught early on that whatever we have is not enough. Children can be surrounded by toys of all kinds, but they are unhappy if they don't have THE toy that is the one to have NOW. We grow up and it's the same. We have a good automobile but it's not good enough unless it has the newest bells and whistles. Or our old iPod isn't good enough because it doesn't have video. Or our computer needs to be upgraded to the newest version. Or our home needs to have an addition to make room for all the stuff we need to have to be happy. Sometimes we think that we'll have enough when we get that promotion we expect, or when have our bosses' job, or when we have a home like our neighbors, or we'll have enough when we retire. But often I hear many retired people who have been seduced by money, who say that they don't know whether they have enough. They have spent their whole lives focusing on the wrong priorities.
When Jesus talked about seeking first God's Realm, he was trying to get us to realize that we need to put first things first. He promises meaningful and happy lives to those who focus less on helping themselves and more on helping others. That's when we will find "the peace of God that passes understanding." I have found this to be true in my own life. I can always tell when I have my priorities out of order: I am anxious, worried, concerned for myself, and/or depressed and discouraged. I get caught up in the stresses and temptations of our society and misplace my focus, and think about wanting or purchasing things I don' really need. But when I put things first, and seek first to understand what God wants me to do, and get about doing it, I am happy and joyful, filled with hope, energy and enthusiasm.
Money by definition is not good or bad. Those who think the Bible views money as the root of all evil, haven't really read the Bible. That particular verse actually says that the "love of money is the root of evil." Money can be a blessing if it is used for good. I can give my money through my denomination and it can go around the world helping others who are in need in places where I can never go. I can tithe 10% of my income to my local church, and it can help others in my congregation and help my church to be a mission station for my community providing inspiration, help, hope, and values.
How we give our money is the most accurate indicator of our relationship with God. There's a cliché about an offertory prayer that says this well: "God, no matter what we say or do, this is what we really think of you." If we give token rather than lifestyle gifts we do not have a strong relationship with God. But if we give sacrificially, by definition, if we forego some things in order to live more fully by our values, we grow closer to God and God will bless our lives. A "financial gift' that we determine we can afford based on our present expenses and income does not stretch us to grow and walk in faith. But a "Faith Gift" that aims beyond our present resources, perhaps changing our lifestyle to make it possible, can enable us to grow in generosity and to connect with "the way and truth and life" that Jesus embodied. By stepping out in Faith and making a Faith Commitment we find that God provides additional resources to help meet those commitments.
Jesus had a gift for being direct. Unlike most preachers Jesus didn't mince words or try to say what people wanted to hear. In Luke 6:38, he is quoted as saying, "Give and it will be given to you....The measure you give will be given back," and he uses the parable of the marketplace saying that God will provide an overflowing abundance if we first give. Notice the order, we give first, then God blesses us. It is not the other way around.
When I do interviews for Comprehensive Financial Feasibility Studies, in the questionnaire we always ask, "How do you figure how much you give to the church?" The most frequent answer is, "We don't have any system. We sort of figure out what we can afford to give after everything else we spend money on." This is just the opposite of what the Joy of Generosity calls for. By giving to God first, everything else will follow.
In fact, in the Old Testament God says, "Put me to the test." If you tithe of your income, you will see that I will shower you with blessings." Once again God expects us to give first, and we will receive our blessings. I have found this to be the case in my life. I have been tithing for over 20 years and God has provided everything I need. You cannot out give God.
Studies have shown that those who give regularly have higher
self-esteem and are healthier: they have lower blood pressure, less
depression, are happier, and and live longer. On the converse, those who are
greedy rather than generous, are typically unhappy, more isolated, and
less pleasant to be around. Those who regularly give generously realize that
giving is a privilege that can boost our sense of self-worth by enabling
us to make a real difference. When you
Wyden Your Horizons with Money
you find the Joy of Generosity, becoming a powerful force for improving the
world around you and inspire others to join in finding that joy as well.
The generosity of Americans was powerful in 2005. According to Giving USA, the yearbook of Philanthropy, Americans gave $260.28 billion dollars according to the latest yearly figures. Individuals gave 76.5% of the donations, Foundations gave 1.5%, Bequests accounted for 6.7%, and Corporations gave 5.3% of the donations. Sometimes we underestimate the power of individual donations, but the above statistics show that individual giving is powerful.
The greatest amount of those funds went to Religious Causes and Churches
- 35.8% A distant second was gifts to Education at 14.8%, then Human
Services such as the Red Cross, the United Way, etc. with 9.7%. Health
causes received 8.7% of the funds, and gifts to foundations accounted for
8.3%, and gifts to Arts, Culture, and the humanities 5.2%. Top
"Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe." Saint Augustine
"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Faith is a sounder guide than reason. Reason can only go so far, but faith has no limits." Blaise Pascal
"Faith is the function of the heart." Mahatma Ghandi
"For we walk by Faith, not by sight." II Corinthians 5:7
"Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see." William
Newton Clark Top
As our population ages churches have more older members. Even though many of these members may be retired some of them may have significant assets. Sometimes these older members worry whether they will have enough saved up for however long they will live. But sometimes these individuals do not realize that if they give some of their appreciated assets to their church, they may also have more to spend. This can apply in many ways for retired individuals, but this year especially it can benefit older retirees.
If you're 70.5 before the end of 2007 and you have a traditional or Roth IRA, you may be able to exclude from your gross taxable income IRA distributions that are directly donated to charities. The Pension Protection Act of 2006, which was extended through 2007, allows you to exclude up to $100,000 per person per year in giving to qualifying charities. To take advantage of this tax break, you must do the following:
Keep in mind that since this charitable distribution will not be included in taxable income, you cannot claim a tax deduction for the charitable contribution. This is especially good news because qualifying charitable distributions from IRAs will eliminate the need for donors to claim an income tax charitable deduction; even people who don't itemize their tax returns will enjoy the equivalent of a charitable deduction. Also, people who have reached the 50% of Adjusted Gross Income limitation can give more because the qualifying charitable distributions operate independently of the percentage limitation rules. Therefore, they don't affect other gifts to which the limitations apply.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this new tax law, be sure to talk to your accountant about how to claim this exclusion from gross income on your tax returns. The IRS has not yet made this procedure clear.
The above illustrations are meant to provide ideas for gifts to
charity. They are not professional recommendations. Remember to consult your
professional financial tax advisor before implementing the above
giving illustrations to see how they may or may not apply to your personal
tax situation. Top
You don't have to be a billionaire to change the world. You too can set up your own personal giving fund, like Bill and Melinda Gates, and designate the proceeds toward causes that you believe will make a difference. The power of giving by individuals is often severely underestimated. In 2005 individuals in American gave almost $200 billion for charitable causes!
It only takes as little as $5,000 to set up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) which can be managed by professional investment firms like Fidelity or Charles Schwab, Inc, to multiply the power of your initial donation. In addition, if you use appreciated assets to fund your DAF, you may be able to enjoy significant tax savings for up to five years. Giving in this way is often far more beneficial than just writing a check. For example, if you have an investment or asset that has appreciated from an initial value of $2,500 to a present value of $5,000, and if you transfer that $5,000 to your Donor Advised Fund, you could save the Capital Gains Tax on the $2,500 of appreciated value and also take the full $5,000 charitable gift off of your taxes.
Families can also set up their own DAF to enable them to pool their resources for greater results and/or to teach children or grandchildren about the Joy of Generosity. Having a DAF can make it easy to get in the habit of regular giving, which can provide additional benefits for your personal physical and spiritual well being. Even if initially you aren't sure which causes you want to give to, your funds can be professionally managed to increase in value, and when your are ready you can designate a portion or all of them to the cause or causes that you think will provide the most benefit to the world.
You can make additional donations to your DAF at any time and can also decide how you want your Fund invested, to maximize the proceeds that may be donated to the cause of your choice. Most of the major investment firms offer DAFs and a wide variety of investment options to enable you to increase the value of your initial and/or additional contributions without spending much time in managing your Fund. The invested assets grow tax free as well. By using a DAF, you can increase the results of your giving by multiplying the amounts that your favorite charities receive and at the same time you can personally benefit from the significant tax savings that are available for your contributions. By giving regularly through your DAF, you too can become a philanthropist using your financial blessings to benefit your community and the world.
The above illustrations are designed for inspirational purposes and
are not meant to be professional investment guidance. Be sure to consult
your personal advisor before setting up a DAF; most of the major
investment firms can provide you with literature about how to set up a DAF
as well as the benefits and requirements to do so. Top
VanderWyden Consultants provide professional fund-raising
guidance to non-profit organizations and churches who need assistance
with their fund-raising. We provide professional guidance for Capital Fund Campaigns, Stewardship
Operating Budget Campaigns, Planned Giving Campaigns, Comprehensive
Financial Feasibility Studies, and Workshops on the dynamics of stimulating growth in
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Rev. P. William VanderWyden, CFRE